Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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February 6, 2011

KRISTOL CALLS OUT BECK OVER 'HYSTERIA'.... There were some noticeable fissures among conservatives as the revolution in Egypt got underway, but those differences have intensified this week, with the right splintering into a growing number of factions. As of this morning, it's impossible to say what "the conservative line" is on Egypt.

What's easy to say is that the line isn't where Fox News' Glenn Beck is drawing it. The deranged media personality has spent the last several days cooking up truly bizarre conspiracy theories -- even by his standards -- involving caliphates, communists, and radical theocrats, all of which has culminated in Beck urging his minions to store food because the "new world order" may be coming to get them.

Yesterday, The Weekly Standard's editor William Kristol, a Fox News contributor, called Beck and his ilk out in print.

Now, people are more than entitled to their own opinions of how best to accomplish that democratic end. And it's a sign of health that a political and intellectual movement does not respond to a complicated set of developments with one voice.

But hysteria is not a sign of health. When Glenn Beck rants about the caliphate taking over the Middle East from Morocco to the Philippines, and lists (invents?) the connections between caliphate-promoters and the American left, he brings to mind no one so much as Robert Welch and the John Birch Society. He's marginalizing himself, just as his predecessors did back in the early 1960s.

Nor is it a sign of health when other American conservatives are so fearful of a popular awakening that they side with the dictator against the democrats. Rather, it's a sign of fearfulness unworthy of Americans, of short-sightedness uncharacteristic of conservatives, of excuse-making for thuggery unworthy of the American conservative tradition.

Kristol tends to be a loyal party man, reluctant to publicly criticize his allies. Beck and other unhinged conservatives, in other words, must have really gone too far to draw this kind of rebuke.

What's also interesting is that National Review's Rich Lowry, who's also a Fox News contributor, piled on yesterday, praising Kristol for taking "a well-deserved shot at Glenn Beck's latest wild theorizing."

Time's Joe Klein, meanwhile, added that he considers these criticisms pretty important.

Kristol lies very close to the throbbing heart of the Fox News sensibility. And I've heard, from more than a couple of conservative sources, that prominent Republicans have approached Rupert Murdoch and Roger Ailes about the potential embarrassment that the paranoid-messianic rodeo clown may bring upon their brand. The speculation is that Beck is on thin ice. His ratings are dropping, too -- which, in the end, is a good part of what this is all about. But I wouldn't be surprised if we saw a mirror-Olbermann situation soon.

For the record, I find it extremely hard to believe Fox News would actually dump Beck. It wouldn't surprise me if Murdoch and Ailes were taking some heat over Beck's idiocy, and that GOP leaders consider Beck an embarrassment, but I've never seen a shred of evidence that Murdoch and Ailes have any professional or ethical standards at all.

Regardless, it appears Beck's shtick is starting to wear thin, with his audience and with his own conservative allies. Whether his job is safe or not, that's good news.

Steve Benen 8:00 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (30)

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I think the real take-away from Kristol's column is that he links those who support the status quo and those who express concern about the consequences of democracy in Egypt at this point in time to the the "hysteria" of Beck.

This is less about Beck, who isn't taken seriously by any serious foreign policy thinkers, and more about Kristol trying to delegitimize the anti-neocon thinkers.

Posted by: DRF on February 6, 2011 at 8:17 AM | PERMALINK

Evidence of professional and ethical standards ?
Mein Gott that's adorable !

It is a simpler world we are entering , one where money money money , replaces all those old Greek , and Victorian constructions

Posted by: FRP on February 6, 2011 at 8:19 AM | PERMALINK

Remember the caveat that Kristol is always wrong, all of the time.

-Beck will be chastised only when he stops making money for Murdoch.

Posted by: DAY on February 6, 2011 at 8:21 AM | PERMALINK

I think it is significant. Beck provides much of the energy and impetus behind the Tea Party movement of the past few years. He speaks to a huge audience via the Radio and the Television and has them absolutely transfixed. He has been a useful idiot on the Fox network - getting the audience riled up but also giving Fox plausible deniability (hey he's just an opinionator). If Kristol is going there - then there must really be a sense that he has become an embarrassment.

Posted by: jomo on February 6, 2011 at 8:44 AM | PERMALINK

Murdoch is all about the Benjamins, and only about the Benjamins. If he could make 99 cents promoting right-wing hate or a dollar promoting pedophilia, he'd fire Glenn Beck and hire Gary Glitter in a heartbeat.

Posted by: hells littlest angel on February 6, 2011 at 8:45 AM | PERMALINK

Kristol is irrelevant and Murdoch could care less what happens to this country as long as he runs a profit which means viewers which means controversy. To paraphrase Ayn Rand's character Francisco D'Aconda, we have replaced the aristocracy of news professionals with the aristocracy of money.

Posted by: KurtRex1453 on February 6, 2011 at 8:49 AM | PERMALINK

Beck and Kristol represent different strains of wingnuttia. Kristol is a neo-con and he sneers at simpletons like Beck. Beck hails back to the John Birch crowd (which contains more than a little anti-semitism).

Posted by: Jose Padilla on February 6, 2011 at 8:56 AM | PERMALINK

Kristol is a foreign policy guy and speaks to the foreign policy intellectual community--he's fighting for the credibility of the neo-conservative branch. He's not trying to appeal to the mass Tea Party crowd, the vast majority of whom don't know who he is and don't have any particular interest in international issues.

I doubt that Kristol's disapproval of Beck--which, as I said previously, I think he offers up only as a means to attack his real opposition--has any impact on Fox News' decision to keep Beck.

Posted by: DRF on February 6, 2011 at 8:56 AM | PERMALINK

Dunno about Murdoch.
His English career seemed to imitate the publisher played by Raymond Massey in "The Fountainhead", contemptuously feeding swill to the vacuous masses and cynically manipulating their elected representatives.
But his recent statements supporting Beck sound like the musings of old Major Amberson, or grandfather talking about the Masons/Illuminati/Jews.
Could be that soon the kids will sit down with The Lovely Wendi and work a deal, and the Knight of St. Gregory the Great will start working on his memoirs.

Posted by: Steve Paradis on February 6, 2011 at 9:02 AM | PERMALINK

Fox News is an embarrassment. When they get to that point call me.

Until then any Republican that watches Fox news is going to suffer from the mental illness that propaganda brings with it.

Posted by: Langx on February 6, 2011 at 9:03 AM | PERMALINK

Beck, in order to keep his ratings from plummeting, has to get crazier and crazier, or people might turn him off.

Soon, he'll be warning of an Islamic Caliphate run by intergallactic aliens who'll be shipping in Illegal Muslim Martian Aliens and trying to run the entire solar system from Mecca.

And it'll all be the fault of the Liberals, the Democrats, and, of course, Obama.

Excuse me, I have to take this call on my cell phone. It's my Intergallactic Overlord telling me what I need to twitter to Egypt to move the process along.

Posted by: c u n d gulag on February 6, 2011 at 9:06 AM | PERMALINK

First of all, discussing Glen Beck in a serious political context is like discussing pro wrestling as a legitimate sport.

It's time to discuss glen Beck for what he is: an entertainer putting on a show.

Posted by: SaintZak on February 6, 2011 at 9:07 AM | PERMALINK

What is more frightening than Glenn Beck's rantings from Fox's bully pulpit (and in Beck's case you can take the word bully in more than one way)?

The tens of thousands of his viewers who love him because, "he explains things so we can understand them."


Posted by: dweb on February 6, 2011 at 9:51 AM | PERMALINK

There are only three obvious circumstances that would take Beck the bigoted bloviator back to the funny farm from which he escaped:

1) He meets his demise for some reason, in which case he won't return to his audience at the funny farm.
2) Some yahoo somewhere does a Tucson while repeatedly shouting some of Beck's rants.
But most importantly,
3) His ratings drop below the profit point. Advertisers already shun him, but they don't pull their money away from Fox entirely.

Murdoch is a sociopath Republican interested in only money, but he might subsidize Beck for a while, as he does Kristol, and the New York Post - for the good of the party.

Beck is strictly a propagandist who has no serious following. There may be serious numbers in his audience, but as a group they are devoid of critical thinking skills (LOL). One has to wonder how much crazier he has to become before his flock deserts him. That he has the size audience he seems to have is an indictment of the educational system in this country like no other.

Posted by: rrk1 on February 6, 2011 at 9:56 AM | PERMALINK

Bill Kriston sez:

Nor is it a sign of health when other American conservatives are so fearful of a popular awakening that they side with the dictator against the democrats. Rather, it's a sign of fearfulness unworthy of Americans, of short-sightedness uncharacteristic of conservatives, of excuse-making for thuggery unworthy of the American conservative tradition.

He's got a bizarre view of what "American conservatism" is, doesn't he? "Side with the dictator against the democrats" - isn't that the stated GOAL of the right wing? And anything with "democrat" in it has got to be evil, right? Not to mention that fear-mongering is the stock and trade of the American right.

"Shortsightedness uncharacteristic of conservatives"? Those people who constantly turn on a dime against their cherished principles and positions for short-term political gain?

And finally "thuggery unworthy of the American conservative tradition"?!?! Give me a break! "Thuggery" is basically all they do anymore, for the last 60 years.

Kristol isn't stupid, just twisted and willfully immoral - so he must just be fluffing his base. They love to believe how fearless, principled and democratic they are. It's the libruls who are "elitists", cowardly, immoral, and thuggish.

Posted by: zandru on February 6, 2011 at 10:25 AM | PERMALINK

I'll wager that Beck is gone within a few months. The GOP primary is coming up and there is NO WAY that Ailes wants to have Beck embarrassing the eventual nominee. Also, firing Beck becomes impossible once the heated campaign begins; the potential to disillusion the Tea Party at that time would be disastrous for the GOP. He'll be gone by the end of June.

Posted by: danimal on February 6, 2011 at 10:51 AM | PERMALINK

Kristol compares Beck to the John Birch Society as though that were a bad thing.

Posted by: Daniel Kim on February 6, 2011 at 11:01 AM | PERMALINK

I completely agree with danimal, Beck is history.

Posted by: Paula on February 6, 2011 at 11:17 AM | PERMALINK

I completely agree with danimal, Beck is history.

Posted by: Paula on February 6, 2011 at 11:17 AM | PERMALINK

Oh, come on, Kristol is just jilted because his pet project, the bombing of Iran, has been bumped from the headlines by this inconvenient Egypt thing, and Glenn is getting all the attention!

Man up Kristol, you're just as crazy as Beck! -Kevo

Posted by: kevo on February 6, 2011 at 11:22 AM | PERMALINK

It's time to discuss glen Beck for what he is: an entertainer putting on a show.

I don't hear his audience laughing.

Posted by: SqueakyRat on February 6, 2011 at 11:25 AM | PERMALINK

I think danimal is right--Fox News will pull Beck off the air at some point this year. He's a wild card, and they don't want him turning on their preferred candidates. In addition, removing Beck makes Fox appear to be more "fair and balanced" than it is; it allows them to say that Fox won't tolerate irresponsible commentary.

Posted by: DRF on February 6, 2011 at 11:44 AM | PERMALINK

"Fox News sensibility"

Who knew?

Posted by: Eric on February 6, 2011 at 12:01 PM | PERMALINK

Beck may eventually do to himself what he did before in his Morning Zoo days. He's an entertainer in a medium that rewards outrageousness and pushing of boundaries, but sooner or later he'll push them too far even for his fans. When he does the equivalent of ridiculing a woman on the air for her miscarriage, maybe we'll finally see the last of him. But it won't be because Murdoch or Ailes have any more sense of decency than his old radio station managers. He'll do it to himself.

Posted by: T-Rex on February 6, 2011 at 12:45 PM | PERMALINK

Does anyone seriously think that Kristol wants democracy in Egypt? A democratic Egypt might not take dictation; they might stop torturing suspects for us, and might open up their side of the Gaza blockade. I'm sure he's for a transition to a less objectionable thug who will still follow the rules for dictators who get billions in aid, wrapped in a suitably pseudo-democratic bow, but is concerned that the screaming of the Becks will mess it up. He may be hoping that, as a gentler, kinder neocon, Obama can arrange the deal if everything is done quietly. But I don't think that the Egyptian people will accept Mubarek's new CIA-connected VP, Omar Suleiman, as the new leader.

Posted by: Joe Buck on February 6, 2011 at 12:54 PM | PERMALINK

People like Beck always pop up when there is economic uncertainty. As the economy continues to improve, even his current fans will realize that he is completely full of shit.

Posted by: Sam on February 6, 2011 at 1:22 PM | PERMALINK

There is a class of conservative pundits who care a lot about ideas and being smart and not being a filthy demagogue. That doesn't mean they always have good ideas or are smart, but they care about that. That's what Kristol is representing here (and that's why the second is Rich Lowry); he's not representing the "Fox News sensibility".

So long as Beck has the audience that he does, there will be a prime time place for him at Fox. So what if his audience is getting smaller? A smaller customer base is not always less profitable, and any shrinkage is coming down from a very big high. The sad fact is that this is grasping at straws and Beck shows no signs of going away any time soon. Unlike Olbermann, his judgment is flawless when it comes to his own financial interests.

T-Rex: "When he does the equivalent of ridiculing a woman on the air for her miscarriage, maybe we'll finally see the last of him."
Don't follow Beck much, do you? He's accused a Jewish Holocaust survivor of being a Nazi collaborator. Being a million times bigger than a "Morning Zoo" DJ means never having to say you're sorry.

Posted by: JeremiahJ on February 6, 2011 at 11:11 PM | PERMALINK

Beck is a very visible tip of a very ugly iceberg.

Irrational hysterical paranoia has and continues to be the hallmark of right radio. For Years. For Decades.

Does no one besides MMFA listen to Savage, Levin, .etc.
Mental health is not compatible with rightwing thought or lack of it.

At least from my perspective.

Posted by: mickster99 on February 7, 2011 at 1:29 AM | PERMALINK

-Beck will be chastised only when he stops making money for Murdoch.

Beck has stopped making money for Murdoch. Advertisers were dropping like flies before Beck's ratings went into the toilet, and now his ratings are 1/3 of their high.

I don't see him making it much longer. He's become an embarrassment even to the GOP, and Fox has a rather large stable of unstable personalities who can more than ably take Beck's place.

Posted by: Stetson Kennedy on February 7, 2011 at 9:31 AM | PERMALINK

OK Beck is deranged...Ailes and Murdoch will get rid of him when THEY want to...what I really love is Klein who sticks in his little 'mirror-Olbermann' jab as if Olbermann was a)as crazy as Beck or b)fired because of lost ratings, advertisers, etc. Olbermann was fired/resigned due to 'tone' and 'arrogance' but he was seldom flat out flippin' NUTS. You may have not liked HOW he delivered his message, but he always had the facts. I hate the little jabs 'journalists' have to get in so the search services will flag their item and the readers will think there is some kind of equivalence.

Posted by: SYSPROG on February 7, 2011 at 3:15 PM | PERMALINK



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